Learning to sing

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Learning to sing well is much like mastering any physical skill. It takes time, effort, and training. Just as athletes spend many years practicing their sport, singers must invest the time to hone …

Learning to sing well is much like mastering any physical skill. It takes time, effort, and training. Just as athletes spend many years practicing their sport, singers must invest the time to hone their art. Think of yourself as a "vocal athlete", training to achieve whatever goal you have set for yourself.






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  • 1. ContentsIntroduction................................................................................................................................................3The Starting Line....................................................................................................................................... 4Understand How Your Voice Works--the "Vocal Athlete"......................................................................... 7II. The Game Plan....................................................................................................................................16III. Training Camp....................................................................................................................................18IV. Game Day...........................................................................................................................................26Choosing Repertoire................................................................................................................................ 28V. In Conclusion.......................................................................................................................................29Recommended Reading: Singing Made Simple...................................................................................... 29IntroductionLearning to sing well is much like mastering any physical skill. It takes time, effort, and training. Just
  • 2. as athletes spend many years practicing their sport, singers must invest the time to hone their art. Thinkof yourself as a "vocal athlete", training to achieve whatever goal you have set for yourself.Like great athletes, most great singers are born with a genetic predisposition to talent. But that innateability isnt enough by itself. It takes discipline, motivation, and hard work to turn your natural aptitudeinto prosperous success.If youre a beginner, this book will help you start to develop your vocal talent. If youve already hadsome training and experience, you may find some helpful suggestions. You shouldnt expect immediateresults, but if you work diligently you should see progress over time.We’ll outline the steps to becoming a vocal athlete. After assessing your voice at the "Starting Line",you’ll create a "Game Plan" that details your goals and development strategy. You will then progress to"Training Camp", which includes exercises designed to improve your voice and increase your range,and finally to "Game Day", which focuses on performance and vocal maintenance skills.Good luck, and have fun!The Starting LineBefore working to improve your vocal skills, its a good idea to first explore and assess your vocalinstrument.Speaking Voice vs. Singing Voice
  • 3. Singing and speaking are closely related. In fact, your speaking voice can teach you a lot about yoursinging voice, and the two can help or hinder one another.Your Speaking VoiceLets start by exploring your speaking voice. Try making various non-speech sounds: laugh, cry, yawn,sigh. If you have a piano or pitch pipe available, find the pitch that’s closest to the sounds you made.Now speak a few monosyllables: uh-huh, mm-hmm, aha. Again, find the matching pitch on a piano orpitch pipe.Now speak a few simple sentences, such as "my name is_____" or "I love to sing", and find thematching pitch. Many people make the mistake of trying to speak at a lower pitch than is natural fortheir voice. Ideally, the pitch should be the same for speaking as it is for monosyllables or non-speechsounds.Continue exploring your voice by speaking monosyllables at various pitch levels on a piano. Find thelowest pitch you can speak without sounding gravelly. (The gravelly sound is called "vocal fry" and isnot healthy to sustain.) Your ideal speaking pitch should be about four to five steps above your vocalfry level.Next, speak sentences or read a paragraph aloud, experimenting with higher speaking pitches. See howhigh you can go. Along the way, note where your voice is most comfortable and where you start to hearand feel strain.Your Singing VoiceVoice TypeThe first step in assessing your singing voice is determining your natural voice type. There are fourmain voice types: soprano and alto (contralto) for women, and tenor and bass for men. Within eachtype are subtypes, such as mezzo-soprano or baritone. However, during the course of training, it ispossible to change from one type to another.In general, sopranos and tenors have a higher range than altos and basses, but this is not the onlydetermining factor of voice type. Tone quality is also a defining characteristic. Lower voices tend tohave a deeper, richer chest resonance, while higher ones are lighter and brighter.The highest voice type is the soprano. The most common subtypes of soprano are the lyric (1st) and themezzo (2nd). Both can usually sing the same range, but the lyric soprano has a lighter tone and morepower in the upper range. The mezzos tone is a bit deeper and more powerful in the lower range.The soprano repertoire used in most high schools and church choirs is written for lyric and mezzosopranos. Some lesser used soprano subtypes include the coloratura--a very high, light, agile voice--andthe dramatic soprano, distinguished by a wide range with power throughout. Both are usually foundonly among highly trained opera singers.The lowest female voice is the alto (contralto); it is subdivided into first and second altos. The firstaltos tone is warm and rich, while the second alto is darker and heavier. Many untrained female singersbegin training as first altos and discover that they are actually mezzo or even lyric sopranos.
  • 4. Female Vocal Ranges Commonly Used in Choral Music 1st (lyric) 2nd (mezzo) 1st alto 2nd alto soprano sopranoThe high male voice is the tenor, subdivided into lyric or dramatic. The lyric tenor is the "leading man"voice used in many musical theatre roles. Most male pop/rock singers are also in this category. Thedramatic tenor has a heavier but more resonant tone and is better suited to classical and operatic works.The lowest voice is the bass, subdivided into baritone (1st bass) and basso profundo (2nd bass). Thebaritone has a light, popular, lyric quality, while the basso profundo is low, heavy, and powerful. Manyuntrained male singers begin training as baritones and find out they are actually lyric tenors. Male Vocal Ranges Commonly Used in Choral Music 1st (lyric) 2nd (dramatic) 1st bass 2nd bass tenor tenor (baritone) (basso profundo)So, your initial voice classification is only a starting point. Record yourself singing a song you knowwell that has a comfortable range. Listen to your tone and try to objectively describe it: light, heavy,dark, or bright. In what part of your range do you have the most power and confidence? Do you like theway your voice sounds? Most people are unpleasantly surprised the first time they hear their ownrecorded voice.Listen to recordings of professional singers of various voice types, and see whose tone quality is mostsimilar to yours. Below are some examples: Dramatic soprano: Anna Netrebko Coloratura soprano: Mariah Carey Lyric soprano: Céline Dion Mezzo soprano: Jennifer Hudson First alto: Taylor Swift Second alto: Miley Cyrus Lyric tenor: Michael Bublé Dramatic tenor: Placido Domingo Baritone: Josh Groban Second bass: Tennessee Ernie Ford (heres a link to some of the songs he recorded before he died in 1991: http://www.last.fm/music/Tennessee+Ernie+Ford)Recordings of the other listed singers should be easy to find online.
  • 5. Range and TessituraYour vocal range is the total number of notes you can sing. The average untrained singer has a range ofabout one-and-a-half octaves--twelve notes. With some training, most singers can achieve two orperhaps two-and-a-half octaves.Tessitura is your comfortable range, in which you can sing the notes consistently, on pitch, and withoutstrain. The term is also used to describe the average pitch range of a song or choral part.Many mezzo-sopranos, for example, can sing an occasional high C at the top extreme of their range,but their tessitura is probably an octave to half an octave below that: perhaps from the A above middleC to the second A above middle C. If they attempt to sing a piece in which the tessitura is from high Gto high C, they will experience vocal strain and fatigue.The key is locating your own tessitura and choosing songs with the same tessitura. If you try to singhigher than your natural tessitura, you run the risk of straining your voice.To get an idea of your existing range and tessitura, try singing some arpeggios and scales. See how highand how low you can go on a piano, and notice the points where you begin to feel strain or hear areduction in tone quality.Remember, this is only the starting point from which you will measure your forward progress. So ifyour range isnt very large right now, dont let that worry you.Understand How Your Voice Works--the "Vocal Athlete"How We Produce and Perceive SoundTuning the human voice is not as simple as tuning a piano or guitar. On those instruments, the tensionof each string is adjusted to vibrate at the correct frequency for the desired pitch. To understand pitchand tuning, it helps to know a bit about how sound is transmitted and how our ears perceive it.Without getting too technical, sound is a wave--a back-and-forth movement of air pressure with threeproperties: wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. Wavelength and frequency determine the pitch, andare inversely related to one another. Amplitude determines the volume (loudness) of the sound.A pitch we perceive as high has a shorter wavelength and greater frequency than one we perceive aslow. When a sound wave strikes the tympanum (ear drum), the vibration causes tiny hair cells in thecochlea (inner ear) to generate a nerve signal that is interpreted by the brain as sound.All musical instruments have a mechanism to generate sound and a resonating chamber to amplify it. Inthe human voice, the mechanism is air flow across the vocal folds and the resonating chamber consistsof the nose, mouth, and throat (collectively called the pharynx and subdivided into the nasopharynx,oropharynx, and laryngopharynx).How Our Voice WorksOur voices produce sound as air from the lungs flows across our vocal chords (which are actually vocalfolds). We control the pitch of our sound in two ways:
  • 6. 1) by the placement of the tone in our resonating chamber. 2) by the tension of the folds as air passes over them, controlled by tiny muscles in the throatThe human voice has three qualities of sound: pitch, volume, and timbre. Pitch measures how high orlow the sound is, and is determined by the larynx; volume indicates how loud or soft it is, determinedby the lungs and breath muscles; and timbre refers to the resonance of the sound, determined by theplacement of the tone in the resonating cavities.Below is a diagram of the anatomy of the human vocal tract. You can refer back to it later when yourelearning how to make it work.The larynx itself is behind the thyroid cartilage at the top of the trachea (windpipe). When we breathe,the epiglottis opens, allowing air to pass through. When we eat and swallow food, the epiglottis closesover the top of the larynx to prevent food from "going down the wrong pipe".
  • 7. Front Back Vertical cross-section of larynx viewed from left side When we speak or sing, the vocal folds of the larynx open (abduct), close (adduct), and vibrate. Thepitch of the sound (how high or low it is) is determined by how tightly the folds are closed and how fast they vibrate. When theyre tightly closed, they vibrate faster and produce a higher pitch. For lower pitches, they are open wider and vibrate slower.
  • 8. interior of larynx top view of larynxHow We BreatheThe diaphragm acts as a bellows, and the chest cavity functions as a sealed vacuum chamber. As thediaphragm contracts and relaxes, it alternately draws air into the lungs and then pushes it out. The lungsare like balloons, and they are alternately inflated (when we inhale) and deflated (when we exhale).Oxygen from the inhaled air enters the bloodstream and is carried to the rest of the body through acomplex biochemical process. The sound of our voice is produced when exhaled air passes across ourvocal folds and causes them to vibrate. relaxed diaphragm diaphragm contracts downward, lungs fill with air, trunk expands circumferentiallyThe volume (loudness or softness) of the sound is determined by the quantity and force of the air flowfrom the lungs, and is controlled by the breathing muscles: diaphragm, abdominal obliques,intercostals, and spinal muscles. Proper breath support is vital to effective projection (singing without
  • 9. electronic amplification).The primary muscle involved in breathing is the diaphragm, which forms the floor of the rib cage anddivides the chest cavity from the abdomen. Other related muscles are the intercostals (located betweenthe ribs, forming the walls of the chest cavity), the abdominal obliques, and some of the spinal muscles.To feel movement of your diaphragm, sit upright or stand tall and lay one hand lightly on the center ofyour abdomen with your thumb resting on your lowest rib. Watching yourself in a full-length mirror,take a deep breath. Your abdomen should expand and push your hand outward. When you exhale, yourabdomen should contract.To feel the obliques and spinal muscles, place one hand with the thumb beside your spine at the smallof your back and the fingers pointing forward. Put your other hand on your side with the thumb restingon the lowest rib and the fingers pointing forward to feel the intercostals and obliques.Take in another deep breath with both of your hands pushed outward. You should feel expansionaround your entire midsection. Your chest and shoulders should not rise or move much at all.Controlling Tone QualityThe timbre of the voice describes its tone quality, and is a function of the resonating cavities of thevocal tract: chest, oropharynx (throat), nasopharynx or mask (nose and mouth), and head/sinuses. Somesingers refer to "head" and "chest" voice. Generally, the lower the pitch, the lower it resonates in thevocal tract.A trained singer learns to produce tones that resonate in the various cavities. A large part of vocaltraining consists of making smooth transitions from one resonating cavity to another as you singdifferent pitches, and choosing where each note should resonate to produce the desired sound.The voice is often described as having three regions or registers: upper (head voice in women, falsettoin men), middle (mask), and lower (chest voice, which is actually a misnomer—the tone range actuallyresonates in the laryngopharynx or throat). The transition between the registers is called the passaggio.Each individual singer has a unique passaggio, though it usually occurs between the B flat below
  • 10. middle C and the E above middle C. Sopranos and tenors may have a second passaggio one octavehigher. Without training, the passaggio may sound rough and feel awkward.If you notice that your voice often "breaks" and the tone quality changes on certain pitches, or you havedifficulty blending with other singers, you have likely found your passaggio. The key is to realize thatthe registers are not actually separate mechanisms, just different levels on a continuous scale.PostureProper posture promotes efficient breathing, which is essential to projection, tone quality, and vocalrange. Overall good health and physical fitness are also important.The ideal posture for singing is erect yet relaxed. Stand with your feet directly below your hips, onefoot slightly forward and your weight centered over your thighs. Your chest should be high and yourshoulders back, though not too rigidly. Arms should be relaxed at your sides.Maintaining And Caring For Your VoiceWhen a guitar gets hard to tune, you replace the strings. When a piano gets out of tune, you call in atuner. Along those same lines, when your voice gets out of tune, you need to take care of yourinstrument.Whether you dream of having a professional career in music or are a purely recreational singer, youwant your voice to sound as good as it can and to last a lifetime. The best approach is to stay physicallyfit through a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and moderate exercise. It also means refraining fromsmoking, illegal drugs, and excessive alcohol consumption.There is a stereotype of constant partying in the music industry, but that isnt sustainable. Mostsuccessful recording artists have taken good care of themselves and avoided the excesses thatprematurely ended the careers of such great talents as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Elvis Presley.Healthy DietTry to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, andvegetables, with only moderate amounts of fat and starchy, sugary foods.Learn as much as you can about food and nutrition from reliable sources. Here are several good articlesand web sites:Harvard School of Public Health, (2008). Healthy Eating Pyramid,http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/Mayo Clinic Staff, (2008). "Food Pyramid: An Option For Better Eating",http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-diet/NU00190/rss=1U.S. Department of Agriculture, (2005) "Inside The Food Pyramid"http://www.mypyramid.gov/tips_resources/tentips.htmlHydrationDrink lots of water. A hydrated larynx functions better. A rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses of
  • 11. water each day, but it doesnt have to be plain water. Any non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage willdo: fruit juices, decaffeinated soda, coffee, tea, or flavored mineral waters all provide hydratingbenefits.Although alcohol and caffeine arent forbidden, they have a diuretic effect, which is the opposite ofhydration.ExerciseExercise helps keep your body healthy and your vocal apparatus strong. Strive for a minimum of 20 to30 minutes of physical activity at least four days per week.Even if you don’t have the budget for a gym membership, you can always walk, run, or ride a bicyclearound your neighborhood. All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothes, or a bike helmet.In inclement weather, you can walk in a shopping mall.If you are traveling, find out if your hotel has a workout facility; if not, you can simply take a walk. Ifthe weather is bad or youre in an unfamiliar city, you can walk in the hotel hallways. Unless youretoting equipment, use stairs instead of elevators.Adequate SleepFor many musicians, a full night’s sleep can be hard to come by. Youre most likely performing late atnight, and it takes a while to unwind afterward. Then you may have to get up in the morning for classesor a day job. But it’s important that you try to get as much rest as possible, as sleep deprivation can bedangerous.Without adequate sleep, youre more likely to get in a car accident, experience a work-related injury, ormake mistakes when performing any activity that requires attention to detail. in fact, studies haveshown that sleep-deprived drivers are just as dangerous as drunk ones. Sleep deprivation also lowersyour resistance to illness.Try to take short naps whenever you can during the day. If you use public transportation, try to catchsome shuteye on the bus or train. On weekends, sleep in if you can. It’s not actually possible to catchup on missed sleep, but the extra rest will be good for you.Stay HealthyIf youre eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep and exercise, you are already giving yourimmune system a boost. During cold and flu season, you can reduce your chance of catching a cold orvirus with these two common-sense tips: 1. Wash your hands frequently. If you arent near a facility with running water (such as an outdoor performance venue), carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you. 2. Try to avoid shaking hands with anyone who is coughing or sniffling. The most common method of transmission for infections is hand-to-hand contact. If you cant avoid the handshake, wash your hands as soon as possible, and dont touch your eyes, nose, or mouth in the meantime.Avoid Vocal StrainIf you frequently overstrain your voice, its likely that either your vocal technique needs work or youneed to develop a better warm-up and practice routine. If you are hoarse after rehearsals, talk with yourvoice teacher—and if you dont have a voice teacher, find one! A professional can listen to you sing,
  • 12. identify the problem, and help you prevent future vocal strain.Small LuxuriesPamper yourself occasionally with an activity you enjoy. Soak in a hot tub, get a professional massage,treat yourself to a favorite dessert, or re-read a favorite book. Any small indulgence will do; it doesnthave to be expensive.As a vocal athlete, you need to regard your body with the same respect and attention as a professionalor Olympic competitor.II. The Game PlanSet Realistic GoalsNow that youve assessed the current condition of your voice and you know where your starting line is,its time to think about your musical goals and create a game plan for achieving them.Think about the singers you admire. What is it about their singing that you want to emulate? Now thinkabout other singers you dont admire. What are they lacking?Listen to recordings of a wide range of singers and write down what you like or dont like about each.
  • 13. Focus on artists who perform music in your chosen genre and whose voices are similar to the soundyou are working toward.Finally, even if opera isn’t your thing, listen to a few opera singers. Focus on their tone quality, vibrato,phrasing, and dynamics. Choose an opera sung in a different language so you arent distracted by thelyrics.Why do you sing? Is it just for the sheer joy, or did the church choir director twist your arm becausethey needed more participants? (If you were initially coerced by someone else, take it as a compliment.No matter how badly they needed people, they wouldn’t have asked someone who has a horriblevoice!)What kind of music do you want to sing? What are your musical goals? Do you hope to become aprofessional performer or music teacher, or do you want a role in the next musical with yourcommunity theatre company?Write down your long-term goals (sing on Broadway), medium-term goals (role in community theatremusical), and short-term goals (add half an octave to your range). Its okay to dream big, but at thesame time be realistic.Start with the short-term goals; as you reach those, move on to bigger ones. Remember, they aren’tcarved in stone—you can always change your goals or add new ones.Focus On Whats ImportantDont obsess over range! Tone quality is more important. Even the most demanding operatic ariasrarely require more than two octaves. Most church choir repertoire, pop/rock songs, and jazz medleysrequire 1 to 1½ octaves, and most musical theatre roles call for 1½ to 2 octaves. Its better to have 1½octaves of range with good tone quality than 2½ mediocre octaves.Remember, youre a vocal athlete. Think about competitive figure skaters, gymnasts, andsnowboarders: they get more points for a well-executed move of lower difficulty than for a poorlyexecuted but more difficult one. That same concept applies to singing.Dont Push Too HardBy trying to force your range, you could harm your voice and actually set yourself back. Instead, let itincrease gradually as your voice becomes stronger.Again, think about athletes. Runners dont do a marathon as their very first race. They work up to itgradually: first one mile, then 5K, then 10K, then a half-marathon, and finally a full marathon.Baseball players start in Little League, then move to high-school and college teams, and only then turnpro. Just as you wouldn’t expect a Little League pitcher to strike out a Major League batter, you won’tjump from 1½ octaves of range to 2½ in a week’s time.A Note About ExercisesThroughout the remainder of this book, we will refer to several exercise techniques. Below are thedefinitions of these exercises: 1. Yawn-slide. Inhale on a yawn and exhale on a syllable (such as hoo or hee), starting with a
  • 14. pitch at the top of your range and sliding down to the bottom of your range. Imagine the sound coming from a triangle between your eyes and the top of your nose. 2. Vocal Siren. Start at the bottom of your range and move quickly to the top, then back down. Do this on a hum. If you have adequate breath support, go up and back down several times on a single breath. 3. Buzz. This goes by many different names: buzz, bubble-lips, or lip roll, among others. After a deep inhalation with good expansion, exhale through loosely puckered lips so they vibrate. 4. Arpeggio. An arpeggio is simply a broken chord played up and down the octave: do-mi-so-do- so-mi-do. Sing it on "ah" or "oo", or a syllable such as "la". For example, in the key of C major, you would sing C-E-G-C-G-E-C. 5. Descending Scale. Can be five notes or eight notes. For five notes, start on the fifth tone and descend stepwise to the base: so, fa, mi, re, do. For an 8-tone scale, start at the top of an octave (do, ti, la, so, fa, mi, re, do). 6. Ascending Scale. The reverse of the descending scale. For five notes, sing do, re, mi, fa, so. For eight, sing do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. 7. Triad. This is a smaller version of the arpeggio. Sing do, mi, so, mi, do.III. Training CampStart With The BasicsBefore you can successfully increase your range, you need to learn the basics of healthy singing:posture, breath support, tone placement, and voice registers. The two most fundamental components ofhealthy singing are posture and breath support.Posture and RelaxationBefore you do any singing warm-up exercises, take some time for some full-body relaxation stretches.Start with the "rag doll" relaxation exercise. From a standing position, bend forward from your hips andallow your head and arms to dangle freely. Shake them a bit, then just let them dangle for anotherminute or so.Next, relax your face, throat, and jaw muscles. Gently massage your face and neck with your fingers.Open your eyes and mouth as wide as you can, then close them tightly. Move your jaw around as if youare chewing.The best posture for singing is standing erect but relaxed, with your feet about hip-width apart and oneslightly forward. Bring your shoulders back and your chest high, though not too rigidly.Heres an easy stretching exercise to align your posture. Stand with your feet flat on the floor, abouthip-width apart, and your arms at your sides. Bring your arms rapidly upward and across your body in acircular motion until they are over your head. Rise onto your tiptoes and take in a slow, deep breath asyou move your arms up.As you slowly exhale, bring your arms back down to your sides and come down from your toes to flatfeet. Try to keep your chest up and shoulders back after you bring your arms down.You can also perform this exercise while sitting. Sit forward on the edge of your chair and do the same
  • 15. overhead stretch with your arms. Now you are ready to breathe properly.BreathingMost people rarely think about breathing--its an automatic body function that is often taken forgranted. Yoga, Pilates, and other exercise classes teach "deep breathing" techniques. Although thats astep in the right direction, it isnt enough in and of itself.To achieve proper breathing for good singing, you have to learn to consciously control muscles youmay not have even known you had! Even singers and teachers with many years of training continue towork on their breathing in every lesson and practice session.Breath support enables you to produce a pleasant tone without straining your throat. When you inhalefor singing, you should feel expansion all the way around your midsection. Your diaphragm,abdominal, and spinal muscles should all be working together. (Refer to the diagram on page 10.)Once you are aware of your breathing muscles, you can start strengthening them. Using good posture,place your hands as you did with the previous exercise so you can feel all of the muscles. Take in abreath and feel the circumferential expansion. Now exhale slowly with a hissing sound, maintaining theexpansion as you breathe out.This will take some practice to master. Watch yourself in a full-length mirror; if you see or feel yourbreath muscles start to collapse, stop the exercise and try again. The goal is to maintain the rib andabdominal expansion as long as possible while breathing out at a steady rate.The Fontanelli exercise (named for the person who developed it) helps to control the rate of air flow.Standing erect in front of a full-length mirror, breathe in slowly through your mouth while mentallycounting to four;, then exhale slowly over another count to four. Try to expel all of the air you took in.Watch in the mirror to make sure you fully expand your midsection, and try to maintain it as youexhale.When you can easily do this exercise to a count of four, increase the count to five, then six, and so on.When you can do up to seven or eight, add a hold phase. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a countof four, and then exhale to a count of four, watching to make sure you achieve and maintain goodexpansion. Gradually increase the count.Now youre ready to do some actual singing with breath support. Here are some good vocal exercisesfor breath support and control. 1. Buzz-slides. The buzz is one of the best exercises for breath support. Start on a mid-range tone and slide down a fifth—so, do. Repeat several times, moving down by half-steps, then buzz the descending triad—so, mi, do--sliding between tones. Repeat several times, moving down by half-steps. Finally, buzz a five-tone descending scale—so, fa, mi, re, do. 2. Messa di voce. For this exercise, sing a comfortable mid-range pitch on "ah". Sustaining the note, begin very softly and get gradually louder, then softer again.ResonanceAfter you’ve mastered posture and breath support, it’s time to focus on tone placement and quality.There are three primary areas where the vocal tone resonates: the chest, the pharynx (mouth andthroat), and the head (sinuses). You use your "head voice" for higher notes, and your "chest voice" forthe lowest ones.
  • 16. It is important to understand vocal resonance. The highest pitches resonate in your frontal sinuses,behind your forehead. Think of the tone as coming out the top of your head. Medium to high pitchesresonate in the nasopharynx or mask; imagine these as coming from the top of your nose.Medium to low pitches resonate in the mouth and throat, with the lowest pitches in the chest cavity.They should have a warm, rich tone. When moving up and down your range, try to keep the tone assmooth as possible. Think of your tone as riding in the car of a rollercoaster, and your breath flow is thetrack--the car glides up the track; it doesnt bump roughly along.Most of the time you want to use what voice teachers call a mixed tone, with the sound coming fromboth the pharynx and the head. This combination is called mask resonance, because you want to feelthe sound vibrations in the area that would be covered by a half-face Halloween mask.You can feel mask resonance with the yawn-slide. Take in a good, well-supported breath. Starting on ahigh note with the syllable "hoo" or "hee", slide from the top of your range down to the bottom. Itshould feel a bit like yawning, with a vibration in the soft palate (roof of your mouth) and in thetriangle between your eyes and the bridge of your nose.Once you feel your upper resonance, hum a descending five-tone scale starting at about the middle ofyour range. You should feel a vibration in your nose and sinuses.Now try the scale on the nasal syllable "ng". As you descend the scale, try to maintain the feeling ofvibration in your sinuses. This is high-forward resonance. Repeat the scale starting a half-step lowerand continue to move down by half-steps. Each scale should feel and sound smooth.When you breathe in before each scale, think about drawing the air upward and inward, as if you aresipping from a straw. This will help to elevate your soft palate and enlarge the pharynx. Next, sing onlythe first note of the scale on the "ng", opening up to an "ah" for the remaining notes.Continue to feel the upper resonance as long as you can. Open your mouth wide, but think of the toneas vertical or tall rather than flat. Try other vowel sounds, such as "oh" and "aw". Those vowels areconsidered "darker"; singing them with high-forward resonance achieves what voice teachers call a“deep-set vowel”.If you are just learning how to use upper resonance, sing lightly. Don’t try to force the sound or beltout your notes. You should feel vibration in your nose, sinuses, and perhaps the roof of your mouth(soft palate). Do several yawn-slides, starting each one at a higher pitch than the last."Chest voice" is where you feel vibration (resonance) in your chest when producing tones in that pitchrange. Place your hand lightly on your upper chest with your thumb and fingers resting on yourcollarbones. Do a yawn-slide. Your hand should feel vibration as you slide down into your chest voice.Although it feels like the resonance is in your chest, it’s actually occurring in your throat and mouth.The vibration you feel is the result of air moving from your lungs and across your vocal folds.Tone Placement and QualityA trained singer controls tone quality by changing the shape and size of the pharynx by moving the jaw,tongue, cheeks, and soft palate. One easy way to demonstrate this is to sing normally, then sing the
  • 17. same thing again while pinching your nose. Notice the difference in sound quality.Pinching the nose pushes the sound upward, so it resonates in the nose. This unpleasant sound is calleda nasal tone. Now try singing with a smile. The smile elevates the cheeks and soft palate, pushing thesound upward and producing a softer, more pleasant sound. This is called mask or high-forwardresonance.Some voice teachers tell students to imagine their sound coming from a triangle between the eyes andthe top of the nose. Sing and hold a note. While holding the note, experiment with different movementsof your jaw, tongue, and cheeks. Notice how the sound quality changes.A good exercise to help you feel your upper and mask resonance is the buzz-slide. Do the buzz on apitch in the middle of your range, moving up by half-steps. Start on a single pitch, then try a three-tonedescending triad (so-mi-do), and a five-tone descending scale (so-fa-mi-re-do). Gradually work towardan entire octave descending scale.Try humming a scale. You should feel a vibration in your nose. Now try the scale on "la", keeping thevibration in your nose. You have just used your mask resonance. The goal is to use it whenever yousing.Pitch is determined by the vibration of the vocal folds. For a beginning singer, the easiest way tocontrol pitch is to relax the throat muscles by yawning. Once the throat is relaxed, gently feel yourlarynx (voice box or Adam’s apple) as you ascend and descend a scale. Your fingers should be able todiscern small movements of the muscles.Sing the scale again without touching your larynx, concentrating on how your throat feels. Watchyourself in a mirror; you should see slight movement in your throat.If you are having difficulty maintaining relaxation of your voice, stop and do some stretching exercises.To relax your face and throat, do the "hum and chew" exercise, humming a tune while moving your jawas if you are chewing.Then, just sing a song you know well while moving around. Walk around the room, swing your arms,maybe dance a bit. Now try the messa di voce while still moving. You should notice a difference.VibratoVibrato is the slight variation of pitch due to free oscillation of the vocal folds. It is used to add depth,warmth, and beauty to a tone. Eventually all serious singers need to learn how to sing and controlvibrato.There are times when vibrato is desirable, and other times when it is not. This depends on the style andhistorical period of the music you are singing, what kind of sound the composer had in mind, and thetype of singer or group for whom the piece was written.Vibrato is not the same as tremolo, which is the excessively wide and slow oscillation of tone. Theresult of poor breath support and trying to sing in an overly dramatic style, tremolo detracts from theexpressive quality of the voice. In group singing, it makes one voice stand out and distorts the sound.Childrens voices do not usually have much vibrato; it develops as the voice matures. If you have ever
  • 18. heard recordings of boys choirs (such as the Vienna Boys Choir or English cathedral boys choirs), youhave heard singing without vibrato. This is called straight tone singing.In normal voice production, the vocal folds vibrate as air passes over them from the lungs. When asinger has a free, easy, relaxed tone, vibrato occurs naturally. The goal is not so much to producevibrato as to allow it to happen. As always, begin with good, relaxed posture and strong breath support.Controlling vibrato is all about controlling air flow. Breathing exercises may seem tedious, but they areessential to developing and controlling vibrato. Begin with the "hissing" exercise. Take in a deepbreath, fully expanding your breath muscles. Exhale on a hissing sound while maintaining theexpansion of your midsection. A singing exercise for developing vibrato is "messa di voce". Choose a comfortable pitch in the middleof your range. Sing it on "ah", starting very softly and increasing the volume until it is full and loud,then decreasing back to the starting point. Try to keep your face and throat relaxed.By now you should have a good grasp of the basics. If you are still having difficulty, find a voiceteacher who can help you. This book is not intended as a substitute for professional voice instruction.Increase Your RangeBy now, after thoroughly exploring your voice, you should have a good idea of your natural voice typeand range.For many singers, the main obstacle preventing them from increasing their range is psychological. Youthink you cant sing those notes, therefore you cant! Perhaps someone once told you that you couldnt,or maybe you have heard recordings of professional singers and thought, "theres no way I can do that”,Not everyone can sing a high C or a low E flat, but almost anyone can add a few notes to their range.Once you have overcome the psychological obstacle and decided that you CAN increase your range,the key is to sing lightly. If you try to belt out the notes or force the sound, you might overstrain ordamage your voice.Before attempting to expand your range, you need to sing your existing range with good tone quality--free, easy, clear, and resonant. You should maintain proper posture and strong breath support, and beable to sing smoothly across your passaggio.Once you have mastered these basics and are ready to begin increasing your range, start with a goodwarm-up. Just as you have to warm up your legs before running a marathon, you need to warm up yourvoice before singing in the extremes of your range.It is important to NOT try to force the sound or sing very loudly. Start at about half of your normalvolume, using lots of air flow and breath support. After you can comfortably sing the high and lownotes, then you can add volume. One good exercise for increasing vocal range is the "vocal siren".Think of a comfortable note at the low end of your range, hearing it in your mind. Sing the note on thesyllable "hee", and then start moving quickly and smoothly up the steps of your range as high as youcan go. When you reach the top, start coming back down, as low as you can go. Make sure you havestrong breath support and plenty of air flowing from your lungs.
  • 19. Again, imagine your tone as riding in the car of a rollercoaster, with your breath support forming thetrack. From the starting point, the car goes up and down, up and down, with each successive peakhigher and each successive dip lower.Low rangeIf youre an alto or a bass, these exercises are for you. They can also be effective if youre a soprano ortenor singing a part thats lower than your normal range.To add lower notes to the bottom of your range, do the vocal siren starting at a comfortable high pitch.Go down and then back up, focusing on good posture and breath support.Another simple low range singing exercise is the fifth slide. Start in the comfortable middle part ofyour range. Using the buzz (puckered lips that vibrate as air is expelled) or a syllable such as "vaw",sing the starting pitch and slide down five steps. In the key of C major, it would be G-C, so-do.The slide should be smooth, not bumpy or creaky. Start each repetition a half-step below the previousone and then add a third tone, back up to the starting pitch (so do so). Again, move down by half-steps.Finally, reverse it (do so do).If you feel bumpy or creaky sensations as you descend the scale, you’re probably holding extra tension.Pause and do some relaxation exercises for your face and neck. Gently massage your face and throat,then do the "hum and chew" exercise and try the scale again. As you descend the scale, close yourmouth slightly from its starting position.Now try descending octave slides. Start on a comfortable pitch in the middle of your range. Using thebuzz, slide down the scale one octave from your starting pitch, moving down by half steps. You canalso do this on various vowel sounds or syllables, such as "oo", "ah", "vee", "voh".Next, sing an octave scale up and back down, again using the buzz or "vaw". As you go up the scale,allow your jaw to drop and your mouth to open a bit wider, then reverse that as you come back down. Itmay help to imagine your tone on a path leading away from yourself, with the low notes nearest and thehigh notes farthest away. You may even want to move one hand away from your body as you ascendthe scale and back to your side as you descend.The arpeggio is another helpful exercise. Sing do-mi-so-do-so-mi-do on a vowel sound, such as "oo","ee", or "ah". Start each new arpeggio a half-step lower than the last.High RangeThese techniques are primarily for sopranos and tenors, but altos and basses can also use them to workon high range.A good starter exercise for upper range is the vocal siren. Start at a low pitch and go up, then backdown. Another is the yawn-slide. Do several, starting each one a bit higher than the last.The "buzz-slide" helps to get breath flowing for your upper range. When doing the buzz, try to feel thevibration in your nose and sinuses. As with the yawn-slide, start at the top of your range and slide to thebottom. Keep your tone light; dont try to force anything.It takes more breath energy to sing higher notes than lower ones. You should use all of your breathmuscles: diaphragm, abdominals, spinals, and intercostals, and fully expand your midsection with each
  • 20. inhalation. As you exhale, keep everything expanded except your abdominals, which control the rate ofbreath flow.Once you are breathing properly, focus on your upper resonance, or "head voice". Think of the tone asbeing vertical rather than horizontal, and imagine the sound coming from your forehead and the top ofyour head. Think of it as riding up in an elevator, with your breath as the mechanism that makes itascend.You should feel vibration in your sinuses and the roof of your mouth (soft palate). Keep your mouthhorizontally narrow but vertically tall inside. One voice teacher tells her students to imagine trying toswallow something unpleasant, opening the throat so that it wont touch the sides.Another good exercise is the rapidly ascending and descending five-tone scale. Start in the middle ofyour range and use either the buzz or a vowel sound, such as "oo" or "ah". Start each new scale a half-step above the last and continue in that manner. Be sure to use good breath support.Once you have the feel of your upper resonance, try a few up and down arpeggios. This is a simplebroken chord up and down: do-mi-so-do-so-mi-do. Move upward by half-steps with each succeedingrepeat. Use the buzz or your favorite vowel sound or syllable.Next, try an upward arpeggio and downward octave with turn. This is a slightly more complexvariation on the previous exercise. Sing the upward arpeggio (do-mi-so-do), then do a turn (ti do re),then the 8-tone descending octave scale from do to do. Use vowel sounds; do a few on "ee", a few on"oo", and a few on "ah". Start each new arpeggio a half-step higher than the last one, as shown below. ee----------------------------------------- oo----------------------------------------- etc.Finally, try the upward arpeggio with a repeated high note. This variation is especially helpful withkeeping a light tone on the high notes. Using the syllable "ha", sing the upward arpeggio (do-mi-so-do)and then repeat the high do, staccato, five or six times. See the pattern below. Think about laughingwhile you do this.Adding VolumeOnce you can comfortably and consistently sing the high and low notes, you can begin to add volume.One good way to do this is with the buzz on a five-tone descending scale (so-fa-mi-re-do). Start eachnew scale a half-step higher than the last.When youre comfortable with the exercises, choose a song with a few extreme (high or low) notes. Forthe first attempt, use a song with just a few extreme notes that arent sustained; the majority of the song
  • 21. should be in a comfortable mid-range. Later you can work on songs that stay in the extreme range andrequire sustained notes.Be Patient And PersistentTone quality and range won’t improve overnight. If youre willing to put in the time and effort, you willstart to see real results.IV. Game DayWarm-up & Practice TipsDoes your voice get very fatigued at the end of a rehearsal? Perhaps you didnt take the time to do agood warm-up beforehand. Just as athletes need to warm up their muscles before a race or a game,singers need to get their voices ready before a practice or performance.A good warm-up routine has many benefits. It helps to prepare your body and mind for singing, andcan prevent vocal strain and injury.It may seem counterintuitive--more exercises to prevent overuse injury? Yes. Your vocal folds arecontrolled by tiny muscles, and warmed-up muscles are more flexible, easier to use, and lesssusceptible to injury.The good news is, vocal warm-ups don’t have to be boring. Below are a few fun examples:Warm-up #1: RelaxStart with the "rag doll" exercise. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend forward at the hipsand allow your arms, head, and upper body to hang loosely. Shake your arms and head a bit, then letthem dangle again. Next, stand erect and do a few neck rolls from one side, forward, to the other side,forward, and back. If youre practicing with a group, give each other brief back rubs.Warm-up #2: StretchHold your arms straight out in front of your body and clasp your two hands together. Keeping yourhands clasped, turn your palms outward and raise your arms overhead. Now slowly lean to one side,come back upright, then lean to the other side.Follow that with an exercise to align your posture correctly. Stand with your feet flat on the floor, abouthip-width apart, and your arms at your sides. Bring your arms rapidly upward and across your body in acircular motion until they are over your head. Rise onto your tiptoes and take in a deep breath as youmove your arms up.As you slowly exhale, bring your arms back down to your sides and come down from your toes to flatfeet. Try to keep your chest up and shoulders back, as they were at the top of the stretch, after bringingyour arms down.Warm-up #3: BreatheTake in a deep breath that expands your midsection. Exhale slowly with a hissing sound,maintaining the expansion as you breathe out. Do that several times.
  • 22. Follow that with the Fontanelli exercise (named for the person who developed it). Breathe inand out to a steady count: inhale-2-3-4, exhale-2-3-4. Gradually increase the count. Whenyou can comfortably do 7 or 8, add a hold phase: in-2-3-4, hold-2-3-4, out-2-3-4. Again,gradually increase the count.Warm-up #4: Produce Good ToneDo a few yawn-slides or vocal sirens. For the yawn-slide, inhale as if to yawn, then exhale onthe syllable "hoo" or "hee", starting at the top of your range and sliding rapidly to the bottom.For the siren, start at the bottom of your range and slide to the top, then back down, on ahum.The next exercise uses a technique that goes by many names: buzz, bubble lips, lip roll, or lip trill.Exhale through puckered lips so that they vibrate. It should sound a bit like a motorboat or a"raspberry".Use the buzz to do a fifth-slide. Start on the fifth tone and slide down to the base (so-do): in C majoragain, it would be G, C. Repeat on the same tones with "zoo", then move up a half-step and repeat,"wee" and "zoo" on Ab and Db. Continue moving up by half-steps.Warm-up #5: VocalizeThere are many different vocalizing exercises. Here are a few of the most effective: 1. Up & down arpeggios. This is a simple broken chord up and down: do-mi-so-do-so-mi do. Move upward by half-steps with each succeeding repeat, using the buzz or your favorite vowel sound or syllable. 2. Upward arpeggio and downward octave with turn. This is a slightly more complex variation on the previous exercise. Sing the upward arpeggio (do-mi-so-do), then do a turn (ti-do-re), then the 8-tone descending octave scale from do to do. Use vowel sounds; do a few on "ee", a few on "oo", and a few on "ah". Start each new arpeggio a half-step higher than the last one, as shown below. ee----------------------------------------- oo----------------------------------------- etc. 3. Ascending triplet scale. This exercise is complicated to explain, but easy if you read the notes below. Using the solfege syllables (do, re, mi, etc.), sing an eighth-note triplet upward starting on each syllable; when you get to the top of the scale, reverse and sing each triplet downward. Sing the exercise as rapidly as you can. do re mi fa so la ti do ti la so fa mi re do
  • 23. 4. Ascending and descending thirds. This is another exercise thats easier to sing than to explain. Starting on the base note, go up a third, down a whole step, up another third, etc. until you reach the fifth tone, then reverse and go back down a third, up a half step, down a third, up a whole step, etc. Again, sing it as fast as you can. 5. Rapid repeated up and down five note scale. This one is simple. Just go up and down a five tone scale: do-re-mi-fa-so-fa-mi-re-do and repeat.This warm-up routine is much quicker to do than it is to explain. You should be able to complete it inabout ten minutes. Youll find its worth the time--you will sing better, more easily, and with less vocalfatigue. Include it as part of each practice session and before each performance.Choosing RepertoireChoosing what youre going to sing can be very difficult. If youre a member of a choir or in a musicalplay, the material will be assigned to you. But if youre doing a solo recital, an audition for a role, or aone-person nightclub act, the choice is all yours.Of course, you want to choose songs you can sing well, and that suit your voice. After all your hardwork, you should have a good idea of your range and tessitura. If theres a song you like but its in akey thats too high or too low for you, consider having it transposed to a key within your range.Remember, just because you enjoy listening to a particular song doesnt mean it is suited to your voice.You should have a variety of songs in your performance repertoire—ballads, dance tunes, slow, uptempo—to show the breadth of your skills. But keep in mind that its better to do less difficult pieceswell than to do difficult pieces poorly.Performance TipsThe key to a successful performance is preparation. You prepare by working on your vocal technique,choosing songs that are well-suited for your voice, and learning them thoroughly. Choose flatteringclothes to wear, and hone your instrumental skills if you play one.Preparation also includes learning about the performance conditions at the venue. What kind of soundsystem do they have? How big will the audience be? Will there be other things going on in the room, orwill everyone just be watching you? In many bars, for example, there may be darts or pool tables in useduring performances.Information is power. The more you know, the more confidently and competently you can perform.
  • 24. V. In ConclusionWe hope you have found the information in this book helpful. It isnt intended as a substitute for in-person voice lessons, but it can help you get started. If youre returning to the industry after a break, itcan help you ease back in.Good luck and happy singing!Recommended Reading: Singing Made SimpleBy Roger Burnley http://tinyurl.com/2avpzv2Roger Burnley has been teaching the Hollywood stars how to sing for more than 20 years, andincreasing vocal range while avoiding vocal straining is what he specializes with.He also noticed that most untrained singers (including the stars) find it difficult to control their voiceand hit notes perfectly in tune – let alone increase their range! Roger himself had multiple difficultiesin his first 10 years of singing, eventually falling into so many bad habits he would lose his voice afterevery performance. So what did he do about it? He turned to the master for help. Seth Riggs is a guy who has helped morethan 120 Grammy winners achieve success and was responsible for developing legends like MichaelJackson, Michael Bolton and Ray Charles. Seth spent 2 years training Roger Burnley and essentiallyre-taught him to sing.At the end of this time, Seth was so impressed with Roger’s grasp of singing technique he insistedRoger should become a vocal coach. So Roger has developed a learn-to-sing method that incorporateseverything he learned from Seth over the years. It hones in on these common problems quickly andhelps you to refine your voice and reach the next level in 30 days or less.With this training program, you can learn to get a star-like tone quickly, hit those incredible high notes(aka Mariah Carey or Bono) and wow your audience with a slick vibrato. Roger has since used hismethods on the likes of Macy Gray, Brandy, Ray J, Nona Gaye – who allliterally come running to him whenever they hit a vocal snag to get help taking their voice to the nextlevel. This guy is truly an extraordinary teacher.I’m sure it’s already becoming clear to you why it’s perfectly reasonable to expect good, solid results in30 days with his program. Roger has developed some superb short cuts to developing a good singingvoice, and with his program your vocal range should expand dramatically. His students also gain a
  • 25. crisp, clear tone, rich with character – and most importantly, all the strain and tension in your throatwill melt away. Singing will literally become as easy as talking and you no longer need to fear the dayyou open your mouth to sing…and nothing comes out.Grab a copy of Singing Made Simple today and increase your range by more than 8 notes whileavoiding putting further strain on your voice with bad techniques.You can pick up a copy from the link below: http://tinyurl.com/2avpzv2 Diane Hamel Singing teacher, Montreal PQ Canada